Monday, October 05, 2009

Not Even FREE works...

if you are trying to convert the youth to read newspapers:

You Can Lead a Kid To The Newspaper, But...

In France, in order to reverse the trend that, from one generation to the next, young people are less likely to read newspapers, free subscriptions (with strings) are being tried successfully.

According to the World Association of Newspapers' recent report on the French government's decision to give free, one-day-a-week newspaper subscriptions to every 18- to 24-year old in the country as a way to encourage newspaper reading and civic participation, the publishers say it works, though the free giveaway is not the only factor.

Jeanne-Emmanuelle Hutin, a member of the Directors Committee at Ouest France, speaking at the World Young Reader Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, said "Ouest France, the nation's largest general interest newspaper, increased the number of regular readers among 18- to 24-year olds by 22,000 in 3 years, with 12% re-subscribing after their free subscriptions ended. And 65% of the young subscribers continue to read Ouest France at least once a week after their free subscriptions end."

However, the study concedes that the newspapers must succeed in interesting the young in the news, with relevant content and approaches, by investing in other platforms and by strengthening links with them.

A marketing campaign using new media had to be created, and special content added for young people -- traditional marketing didn't really work, says the report. And a strategy to move the free subscribers to paid subscriptions had to be planned. In Ouest France's case, a two-day-a-week paid subscription was offered after the one-day-a-week free subscription expired.

Government subsidies are part of a package of measures recommended after a three-month government study of the French press last year. Other measures include:

  • Tax breaks to investors in online journalism
  • Doubling of government advertising in print and online news media
  • An increase in the number of distribution points
  • Government support in negotiations with printing unions

"Free subscriptions are not a cure-all remedy, especially if there is nothing of interest to young readers in the newspaper. But it is the backbone of several initiatives to meet the needs of the youth," concludes Ms Hutin.

For more information about this study, please go to the summaries of the conference presentations here.

Me again. Niche papers can work. I do work for a local Hispanic paper that has over 30,000 readers and has been around for 15 years. And it is reaching a growing population with low overhead and there is no other local Hispanic media. (A 3 year old Hispanic Radio station just folded recently due to poor management resulting in continued financial losses).

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